CN12 - Understanding Users in Context: Fieldwork in User-Centered Design

Susan M. Dray, Dray & Associates, Inc.

You will learn how to plan for and carry out studies of users in the field. Rather than teaching a single way to do field research, we provide you with the tools to think critically about the many planning and methodological choices you will have to make. You will also practice techniques and see video examples from actual fieldwork projects in a variety of settings and countries.

This is a significantly updated version of a highly rated course based on tutorials presented at past CHI conferences and other venues.


  • Learn how field research complements other User-Centered Design (UCD) techniques
  • Learn what it takes to make fieldwork more than just "anecdote collecting."
  • Learn fine points of four data-gathering techniques
    • Naturalistic Observation
    • Contextual Inquiry
    • Artifact Walkthroughs
    • Naturalistic Usability Evaluation
  • Identify next steps for data analysis
  • Learn when and how to apply these tools to user-centered design

This hands-on session is aimed at practitioners doing, planning, and leading field research, including developers, designers, and managers who are responsible for user experience or user requirements identification. This is an introductory to intermediate level tutorial. It will be useful for beginners in fieldwork, as well as those with some experience who want to broaden their knowledge of approaches.

Lecture, group discussion, and small group hands-on exercises

Instructor's Background:
Through her consulting firm, Dray & Associates, Inc., Susan has helped many clients plan and design products that meet user needs, using field research and other UCD approaches. She is a well-known consultant, speaker, trainer, and author on this and other UCD topics. Susan has been active in CHI since the Gaithersburg Conference, and is a Fellow of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. She was awarded the SIGCHI Lifetime Service Award in 2006. She was previously the editor of the Business column of interactions magazine from its second issue in January, 1995 until 2005. Susan is currently the Director of Publications for the Usability Professionals Association.